chapter  3
MAGNA CARTA AND ITS GENESIS 1189–1216 3.1 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF MAGNA CARTA
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Winston Churchill’s words embody many truths about Magna Carta, but ignore its central paradox: that although the king was subject to the law, only the king had power to make law, so that King John could subordinate himself to the law which he and his predecessors had made, but he could amend that law.2 Indeed, he sought to do so in order to nullify Magna Carta in the 16 months that remained of his reign after he set his seal to the charter. Not for many years after 1215 did a power to make laws independently of the king develop. Magna Carta marked the beginning of this development, but legislative power remained firmly in the king’s hands, so that it represents terms conceded by John, not a democratic structure which circumscribed his powers and those of his heirs.